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New studio space coming to St. Pete Warehouse Arts District

New studio space is coming to St. Petersburg’s Warehouse Arts District and the community is invited to come take a peek at the progress on Thursday, April 27th.

At a “Hard Hat Celebration” and fundraiser, the St. Pete Warehouse Art District Association will showcase the ArtsxChange, a project that converts 50,000 square feet of space into affordable art studios as part of the association’s commitment to the local art community.

“It’s a chance to get people up to date on the project, which has been in the works for several years, let our sponsors and donors see where their money has gone and to really invite artists into the area to bear witness to our commitment to provide affordable space for them to create,” WADA Executive Director Mary Jane Park says.

The event begins at 4:30 p.m. and includes art by incoming ArtsXchange artists, live music, food and drinks, remarks from St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman and more. The new studios, located at 515 22nd St. S, are currently under construction and attendees will have the opportunity to view progress. A $20 donation to WADA is suggested but the event is free to attend.

WADA has branded the ArtsxChange as a resource for the city, local artists and the community by creating “sustainable and affordable art studios and educational space.” The first phase of development began in March and is expected to conclude in mid-summer. It includes a 1,500-square-foot community space for art exhibitions and educational programing as well as 28 studios.

Smith and Associates CEO Bob Glaser says his business is sponsoring the ArtsxChange because it improves the community and adds opportunity for residents.

“It’s going to bring a lot of positive change to the market place,” he says.

For more information on the event, to register and to view a list of ArtsXchange sponsors visit WADA online.

Developer proposes micro apartments in downtown Tampa

A Tampa-based development firm is looking to bring an innovative type of living space to downtown Tampa.

Urban Core Holdings, LLC is currently under contract to purchase a 12-story downtown office facility with plans to create micro apartments – 300 to 400-square-foot living quarters that are designed to appeal to those who live and work in the area.

Starting at $850 a month and maxing out at $1,100 the apartments, located at 220 E. Madison St., will provide an alternative that is far cheaper than other downtown Tampa complexes, says Omar Garcia of Urban Core Holdings.

Among people under age 35, especially young professionals, Garcia notes there is substantial appeal for this type of living space, which facilitates proximity to high-paying jobs in the downtown area.

“We think there’s a solid six- to seven-thousand people who would be interested in this project,” he says.

One of the proposed complex’s main advantages is the opportunity for younger occupants to be able to acquire wealth in light of the lower rents and reduced living costs.

“It’s a wealth creation idea” Garcia says, noting that the residents would ideally be living near their workplace and would bypass the expense of owning a car as a result.

According to a news release from Urban Core Holdings, a study from AAA Shows that owning a car can cost upwards of $725 per month when all costs are factored.

And the 120 potential residents at 220 Madison will likely be required to not own a car.

Urban Core is currently negotiating with the city of Tampa to avoid a $3 million fee for not adding additional parking once the space is converted from mixed-use to multi-family residential.

Garcia says having to pay the fee would translate to higher rents, which doesn’t fall in line with the goal of the building.

“We’re willing to require our residents not to own a vehicle and therefore there is no parking impact,” he says.

Tampa Bay History Center grows up and out, stays on track with $11M expansion

The Tampa Bay History Center is experiencing smooth sailing so far on an expansion project that will bring the area’s pirate lore to life.

“Knocking on wood, everything is going well,” says C.J. Roberts, History Center President and CEO.

Roberts says construction crews are slightly ahead of schedule on the building expansion that will house the new “Treasure Seekers: Conquistadors, Pirates & Shipwrecks” gallery -- an addition that includes a 60-foot replica of a sailing vessel as its centerpiece and will focus on the stories of Florida’s early explorers.

As construction continues, the Pinellas Park-based Creative Arts is working to design the exhibits and a theatre company out of Boston is writing an “immersive pirate theatre experience” to complement the new gallery, which should be complete before the end of the year.

The expansion is just one part of an $11 million capital campaign, which Roberts says he is hopeful will be completed successfully in another year or so.

The goal of the capital campaign is to raise $5 million for the new gallery and maintenance on the existing structure, $5 million for the center’s endowment -- which funds about 25 percent of operating costs annually -- and $1 million for the new Florida Center for Cartography, a joint effort with the University of South Florida.

“We’ve raised $7.5 million dollars to date,” says Roberts.“We’ve got good wind in our sails, and I am optimistic that we’re going to be successful in completing this campaign.”

The full-size ship included in the gallery aims to provide an immersive experience that will help dispel some myths or misconceptions about pirates while providing a unique chance to learn about navigation, engineering and mathematics.

“These stories of early navigation and maritime exploration really lend themselves very well to pulling out those kinds of educational opportunities,” Roberts says.

Roberts hopes this expansion will broaden the center’s reach by telling stories that go beyond our backyard in the Bay Area.

“This is not a Tampa or Hillsborough story, as many of our other exhibits are,” he says. “This really is a Florida story.”

The Tampa Bay History Center’s expansion project is just one part of a period of exciting growth for the downtown area and Roberts is eager for the next chapter in Tampa’s story.

“We’re excited about the contribution this will make to an already growing downtown,” he says. “I think that we’re in a good place, and the future for both downtown Tampa and the history center looks pretty bright.”

Time to get outdoors to play: Springtime spawns local art festivals

As part of its efforts to revive Station Square Park, the city of Clearwater is holding the first in a series of paint parties/art bazaars at the Cleveland Street Park. Painting in the Park - Art Bazaar at Station Square Park kicks off from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, April 1, and continues on the first and third Saturdays through June.

“It’s going to be a real active event with lots of art and live music, an open-air painting class,” says Jennie Pearl, the event coordinator, an artist who will teach the $35 painting class. “It’s going to grow. So far we’ve had such a wonderful response.”

The free event sponsored by the city of Clearwater’s Community Redevelopment Agency and Parks and Recreation Department, also features live music by Sal Belloise (known as Guitar Sal), art by Kelly Strong, beer and wine tasting, body/face painting and unique vendors offering items like Hawaiian Island soaps and wearable-art clothing.

A muralist, Pearl still is recruiting for the upcoming events. “I’m looking for comedians, jugglers, hoola hoopers, massage therapists,” says Pearl, who won the 2016 Clearwater’s Downtown Gateway Art Project. “It’s all the arts."

Plans developed after visitors were polled at a grand reopening of the park in February. “They wanted art, they wanted music and entertainment,” says Laura Canary, Community Redevelopment Coordinator. “They also wanted … some type of adult component, some kind of nightlife in the park as well.”

Meanwhile in Tampa, the 6th Annual International Cuban Sandwich Art and Food Festival is underway from noon until 6 p.m. Saturday, April 1, at Hillsborough Community College in Ybor City. Saturday’s agenda? Trying to make the largest Cuban sandwich. The event continues from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday, with competitors worldwide competing for awards.

The Safety Harbor Songfest is taking place April 1 and 2 at Safety Harbor Music and Art Center and Waterfront Park, featuring the Wood Brothers, Rising Appalachia, and more. It supports the nonprofit art center’s events; music begins at 11 a.m. both days.

The Tampa Bay Blues Festival is coming to Vinoy Park in St. Petersburg April 7, 8, and 9.  The event kicks off with Dennis Gruenling at 12:30 p.m. Friday, and includes The Rides with Stephen Stills, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, and Barry Goldberg Saturday at 8:30 p.m.

Organizers of the free, two-day Mainsail Art Festival April 22 and 23, who are expecting to draw some 100,000, also are gearing up for the juried art competition at Vinoy Park. Some $60,000 will be awarded to prize winners at the festival, which began in 1976 when the city’s Bicentennial Committee, the St, Petersburg Recreation Department and St. Petersburg Arts Commission collaborated on a sidewalk arts and colonial crafts festival.

“It wasn’t a juried show. Now it’s one of the top in the country,” says Lisa Wells, who chairs the all-volunteer planning committee. “The prize money’s grown, everything’s grown. ... The quality has gotten better.”

The event, sponsored by the city, Junior League of St. Petersburg, and Tampa Bay Times, was among the top 20 best shows by Wisconsin-based Sunshine Artist magazine in 2016.

The festival, which draws more than 250 exhibiting artists, runs from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. April 22 and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. April 23. The lineup includes Jah Movement Reggae Band at noon April 22,  Souliz at 4:30 p.m. April 22, and singer-songwriter-instrumenalist Damon Fowler at 3:45 p.m. April 23.

The city is seeking volunteers, who can signup online.

Here are some other art-related events planned in the Tampa Bay area during April.

Broad Comedy, a benefit for Planned Parenthood, is slated from 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. April 6 at Ybor’s CL Space, 1911 N. 13th St. It features standup comics Robin Savage and Becca Childs, along with writers Lori Shannon and Cathy Salustri.

• Coffee lovers can check out the Tampa Bay Coffee and Art Festival from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. April 8 at The Noise Box, 1310 John Moore Road, Brandon. The festival features craft coffee roasters from Florida and local artists, food trucks and desserts.

• The Latin Music Festival is slated April 8 at 5730 Shore Blvd. S., Gulfport. The concert, on Boca Ciega Bay from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m., will include recording artists Orchestra Fuego, The Latin Jazz Knights, Freddy Montez, Victor J. Moreno with Esther Suarez, and Eddie Garrido. It is the first of a series of annual Latin Music Festivals. Admission is $15; children under 10 are free.

• Gulfport’s annual Springfest Garden Art and Faerie Festival is slated from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. April 14 and 15 at Clymer Park at 5501 27th Ave. S. Renaissance-era characters will roam at the event featuring a Good Friday Fish Fry, May Pole dances, a costume contest, and live music. Admission is free; complimentary parking is offered. More information is available at Springfest's Facebook page or 727-322-5217.

The SunLit Festival kicks off with a party from 7 to 9 p.m. April 6 at the Chihuly Collection in St. Petersburg. The third annual event runs April 10 through 25, bringing together literary organizations and others.

• The Florida Antiquarian Book Fair, in its 36th year, is slated April 21 to April 23 at St. Petersburg Coliseum. The fair is a mecca for book lovers, offering books on just about any topic.


Biotech company Amgen to open Tampa center

The biotechnology company Amgen plans to open a Capability Center in Tampa next October, creating 450 new jobs and investing $25 million by the end of 2018. The Thousand Oaks, CA-based Amgen, a global pioneer in the fight against serious illnesses, will operate its 136,000-square foot center out of four floors at Corporate Center One in Westshore.

“Tampa was selected mainly on the availability of skilled talent there,” says spokeswoman Kristen Davis, as well as for its "proximity to our global sites around the world.”

She notes Tampa’s “high quality” and “affordable” standard of living, plus the company’s potential to grow in the area.

The Capability Center is to deliver “business-enabling services,” including analytics, staff and business support, human resources, and financial assistance, she says.

Amgen will be hiring for a variety of positions in the information systems, human resources and finance fields. Interested persons should visit Amgen’s Career Center online for specific information on open positions, she says.

Tampa was chosen as the site of Amgen’s new state-of-the-art Capability Center after an exhaustive search that included visits to the finalist communities.

One of the world’s leading independent biotechnology companies, Amgen operates in about 100 countries worldwide. It provides medicines for serious diseases where the treatment options are limited, or where it can provide a viable alternative to existing treatment. Committed to unlocking the potential of biology for patients, it works to develop, manufacture and deliver innovative human therapeutics.

Amgen focuses on oncology/hematology, cardiovascular disease, inflammation, bone health, nephrology and neuroscience.

Florida is home to some of the country’s most highly regarded research centers, including more than 1,100 biotech, pharmaceutical and medical device companies and more than 46,000 healthcare establishments.

Amgen joins the life science companies Bristol-Myers Squibb  and Johnson & Johnson in the Tampa area.


A peak inside: Safety Harbor Art & Music Center opens in northern Pinellas County

The Safety Harbor home of artists Todd Ramquist and Kiaralinda is hard to miss.

Some know the brightly painted and tiled cottage surrounded by yard sculptures as Whimzeyland. Others affectionately refer to it as “the bowling ball house” because of the rows of decorated bowling balls that adorn the home’s yard. For many, it’s a local landmark, and listed on numerous “roadside attraction” websites.

The couple also used their home to bring the arts to their community in other ways, hosting house concerts and local artists. As this grew, Kiaralinda realized they’d eventually need a bigger venue. “When you have 170 people in your gazebo and in your front yard listening to music, it’s kind of time to move it somewhere else,” she says.

Now, after five years of planning, raising funds and construction, their new venue, the Safety Harbor Art & Music Center (SHAM), has opened in the city’s downtown, at 706 Second St. N. The artistic hub for northern Pinellas County opened its doors over Thanksgiving weekend with a three-day celebration, SHAMsgiving. They followed this up with a 12 Days of Christmas holiday event. 

“It’s pretty much a dream come true,” Kiaralinda says. The new venue is a larger-scale version of their home. “There’s art everywhere.”

SHAMc, a 501(c)3 nonprofit, became a possibility for the couple when they won a $50,000 Pepsi Refresh Grant in 2011. Since the initial Pepsi grant, the project has been funded by a mix of donations, fundraisers and grants from the city. The plan was to create a center dedicated to all facets of the arts -- visual arts, music, literature, performing arts -- which is exactly what the venue is, Kiaralinda says. “We’re filling the calendar faster than we ever imagined we would, ever since we opened the doors,” she adds. 

Laura Kepner, founder of the Safety Harbor Writers & Poets, which now hosts its monthly open mics at SHAMc, says the local arts scene wouldn’t be what it is without Kiaralinda and Ramquist. 

“They support me with the open mic,” she says. “The really cool thing about [them] is if you want to do something with your art, whatever your art is, they’re probably going to cheer you on and say, how can we work together?”

The SHAM project transformed the Rigsby House, “a woodsy building” on the property when they purchased it, Kiaralinda says. “The old house was saved and resurrected. We did what we could to keep that alive.”

The original home is now called the ARTery, a space for workshops and to showcase local artwork. They also built a new two-story building called the ODDitorium, where the larger performances and events will take place.

Now, the folks behind SHAMc are planning their annual Safety Harbor SongFest, which is set for April 1 at Waterfront Park. The two-day music festival, which will feature artists including Magic Giant, Rising Appalachia, Charlie Mars and Joe Craven this year, will serve as a fundraiser for the new arts center.

Kiaralinda says SHAMc has a deep volunteer base of about 300 or so. “It’s been a really, really good ride, and we’ve had a lot of support,” she says, despite delays in funding and construction.

Though she and Ramquist have long been a staple of the Safety Harbor arts scene, she’s amazed by the response she’s received since SHAMc opened. “It’s crazy how many people walk through here and want to do things,” she says.

Seminole Heights bike shop reopens in new location on North Florida Avenue

Velo Champ Cycle Sport, which enjoyed six profitable years at 6112 N. Central Ave. in Tampa, has moved into a new location on busy North Florida Avenue in Seminole Heights.

Jordan Miller, who owns the business with his mom and dad, Doug and Sue Miller, says he was looking for more space and the chance to further enhance the concept of a specialty bike shop. 

“We do a lot of things other bike shops don’t do, like custom wheel building,” says Jordan at the new location, 4415 N. Florida Ave. “We use a more consultive approach with customers when it comes to customizing a bike or building a bike from scratch.”
 
Though Velo Champ is open for business, the family is still in the midst of interior renovations, with Jordan handling much of the labor and Doug, an architect, helping with design. The bike service area is complete, but Jordan, 34, is still working on the other half of the 2,700-square-foot shop where bicycles for sale will be displayed.
 
Doug collaborated with his son on designing customized light fixtures which still lay on the floor waiting to be mounted. Doug, a disabled Air Force veteran, says the family wants the modern work and sales space to advance the business’ ultimate goal of being a “destination” cycling center.

“When someone leaves here, they can say, ‘This is my bike and it’s special’,” Doug says.
 
The brick building, which the family is leasing, dates back to the late 1930s or early 1940s and is an example of an architectural style called federal modern, Doug says.
 
“There are some interesting details on the front that are masked by paint,” Doug says. “We’re going to fix it at some point to bring back some of the original details.”

Jordan Miller, who worked in motion pictures and imaging before opening a bicycle business, says he always thought Seminole Heights needed a shop like his. The residents who frequent the neighborhood’s hip restaurants, coffee shops and craft breweries share similar concerns with devotees to the culture of cycling. 

They both care about the environment and tend to support improvements in mass transit, along with walkable, bike-able streets.

“We share similar interests and a passion for the neighborhood,” Jordan says. “I definitely see there is an environmental concern here and a transportation concern that seems more prevalent with bicyclists.”
 
As part of that cultural crossover and support, Jordan says he intends to soon restart the Pub Bike Ride that was a monthly event and started at his bike shop on Central Avenue. The event regularly drew more than 100 cyclists.

“It’s a great way to show what the neighborhood is about,” he says.

How you can vote for best local architectural design in AIA Tampa Bay competition

Are you into local architecture? 

Maybe you really like the craftsman style of the Gulf Gate Library, the unique canopies of the Tampa Riverwalk or the futuristic aspects of the USF Health Pharmacy.
 
Whatever your architectural preferences, AIA Tampa Bay is inviting you to be the judge of its annual Design Awards competition. Through Nov. 2, you can vote for the 2016 People's Choice winner.
 
"This year, we have 51 outstanding projects vying for the honor of being recognized by the community," says Phil Trezza, president of AIA Tampa Bay. "This competition during Tampa Bay Design Week is important to our community because it gives a voice to the people who live, work and play in the buildings our members have designed."
 
AIA Tampa Bay is the regional chapter of AIA or the American Institute of Architects, the professional association for architects and those in the architecture field. The organization has been holding a People’s Choice Design Award program consistently since 2012. Last year's winner was Rashid Medical Complex by Gresham, Smith & Partners, which received more than 170 votes.
 
This year's entries have been submitted by local architecture firms, design-build teams, architectural interns and students. Voters can see a gallery of the projects online and vote for their favorite.
 
"When voting, people should consider more than building aesthetics," says Dawn Mages, Executive Director of AIA Tampa Bay, "they should consider how the building functions for its users and if it is sustainable."
 
The winner of the People's Choice Award will be recognized during Tampa Bay Design Week at the Celebrate Design awards reception on Nov. 3 at The Italian Club, 1731 E. Seventh Ave. in Ybor City. The event is open to the public and tickets are $55 for AIA members and $75 for non-members.
 
For more information or to purchase tickets, visit AIA Tampa Bay online or call 813-229-3411.

Officials break ground for new stage at Land O' Lakes Community Park

Plans for a new stage in Land O' Lakes took a step forward this month.
 
The Pasco Board of County Commissioners, the District School Board of Pasco County and community supporters broke ground for the performing arts venue on Tuesday, Aug. 16, at Land O' Lakes Community Park, north of Tampa.
 
Not only will the 1,020-square-foot stage serve the community, it will also be available to nearby Sanders Memorial Elementary School.
 
"This stage is going to actually be a cornerstone of future cultural events here in Land O' Lakes, something that we currently don't have -- and we have a lack of countywide, actually," said Pasco County Commissioner Mike Moore during the groundbreaking ceremony. "So you can think about things that are going to be happening on that stage could be school band concerts, plays, pageants, and various other presentations. It's just going to be a wonderful amenity."
 
The $250,000 stage is the second part of $2.3 million worth of improvements to the park where the Land O' Lakes Community Center is located. The first phase was celebrated about a year ago with a ribbon-cutting for a new practice field, football field, softball field, walking trail, concession building with restrooms and meeting rooms, maintenance building, event field, two shelters, parking lots, playground and remodeled patio area.
 
Money for the stage comes from donations from architects, contractors and a grant from the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs.
 
The park was built in the 1960s, and an organization called the Heritage Park Foundation was created in 1997 to help protect it.
 
"Our desire was to keep our little historical park alive, to keep it as a community gathering spot it was created to be, and the co-facilitated shared use of space with Sanders Elementary," Sandy Graves, honorary mayor of Land O' Lakes and Heritage Park Foundation president, said during the Aug. 16 event. "That was the plan from the inception."

The group has long advocated for a stage at the park.
 
"Heritage Park Foundation has a motto," Graves said, "building a better community by building a better community center."
 
Construction on the stage is expected to begin in the fall and wrap up in January 2017.

Unique dining concept, The Hall on Franklin, coming to Tampa Heights

Tampa Heights will soon have a distinctive collection of eateries that Developer Jamal Wilson hopes will help Tampa become a food destination.
 
The Hall on Franklin is an upscale, chef-driven food hall that will feature several dining options, a craft coffee bar, a lounge with specialty signature cocktails, outdoor seating and live entertainment on nights and weekends. It's expected to open this fall in the historic Farris Building, 1701 N. Franklin St., which housed an automobile company in the 1920s. A grand opening is tentatively scheduled for Nov. 1.
 
Wilson came up with the concept over several years. He was exposed to cultural restaurants and food curation while playing professional basketball in Europe, and he visited modern-day dining halls more recently while traveling with his family in the United States, like The Source and Avanti F&B in Denver and The Pennsy and Gotham West Market in New York City.
 
"At some point you begin to wonder if you can deliver something of that level where you live, and eventually you say, 'Why not,'" Wilson says. " … Our local talent, for one, is exceptional, and one of the things I love about Tampa in general and the small pockets of communities like Tampa Heights and Seminole Heights specifically, is how supportive and welcoming we are for new ideas and entrepreneurial ventures."
 
Property owner Maureen Ayral of A2 LLC restored and renovated the building over two years. She refreshed the hardwood floors, brick walls, ceilings and ornate iron details. She also converted the street-level windows that once showcased new model cars to glass garage doors that will bring light and fresh air to the indoor-outdoor dining experience.
 
The 8,000-squre-foot Hall has already partnered with local restaurants, which will showcase unique dishes from their flagship locations or create new pop-up concepts. They include: The North Star Eatery, an Asian fusion concept by Kevin and Singh Hurt of Anise Global Gastrobar; La Bodega, Latin fusion by Felicia LaCalle, the former executive chef of The Samba Room, which is now closed; Bar K?-fe, a coffee bar by Ty Beddingfield, former master barista at Buddy Brew; Bake ’N’ Babes, desserts and confectionary by Julie Curry; Bar Concept, bespoke cocktails by Ro Patel, bar program creator of Franklin Manor and Anise; and Heights Melt Shoppe, gourmet sandwiches, homemade soups and sides, hand-spun milkshakes, and unique popsicles by David Burton of Holy Hog BBQ, Tampa Pizza Co. and So Fresh.
 
Wilson, who estimates the total investment in the project is between $500,000 and $750,000, says The Hall is a great opportunity for local chefs looking to deliver their vision on their own terms.
 
"It's not an easy proposition to start your own restaurant from the ground up, so the collective is a great entry point for an up-and-coming chef to break out," he says.
 
He says the collective is an even better opportunity for Tampa foodies.
 
"There is nothing like being able to order an appetizer from one restaurant, share dishes from three more, while having a craft cocktail designed to complement the menus from multiple restaurants," he says. "Or maybe you just want to stop in for ice cream, dessert or coffee at the walk up open door cafes. I just can't imagine a better experience with family and friends."
 
The dining area will feature modern, high-end design elements, and if visitors see something they like, they'll be able to purchase the same item from The Hall's retail space and have it shipped directly to their home.
 
Entertainment on nights and weekends will be provided by DJs and live bands.
 
"It also helps that on the weekends we will be open until 2 a.m., which lends itself well to the live, work, play theme of the urban corridor," Wilson says. "Your food options should not be limited after (midnight) in a thriving city like Tampa."

The Space theater in West Tampa grows a loyal following

A new arts space in a historic part of Tampa is thriving.

Simply called The Space, a restaurant turned performing arts venue in West Tampa, is now in its fifth month of business, which is booming. The Space is an innovative concept where round tables and couches replace typical theater seating, and performers sit in the audience and perform on raised platforms around the establishment as opposed to a traditional stage.

What is also unique about The Space is its location. While other owners may have looked for locations in downtown, Westshore or Hyde Park, Jared O'Roark and co-owner Erica Sutherlan chose West Tampa and the community has embraced them.

“So far the community has been so great to us,” says O'Roark. “There are several local gentlemen in the area who help with parking, and reassure people who are not familiar with the area that this is a safe area. When you make that turn on Main Street, some people may perceive the neighborhood as dangerous, but believe me, I live around here and it is not dangerous.”

Currently at The Space, "Elegies for Angels, Punks & Raging Queens,'' is playing through April 24th. The musical is an innovative production in which each actor plays five to six characters -- each sharing his or her experience with death from AIDS.

So what is it like for performers in this unique theatrical environment?

'It's much more intimate and more challenging in a good way,” says Actor A.R. Williams who plays multiple roles. “It has made me a stronger artist because on a traditional stage with all the lights you can't even see the audience. Here, you can see and even feel what the audience is going through as they watch the performance. To feel the emotion and that energy just makes me a better performer.”

Tron Montgomery, who plays everyone from a homeless man to a flamboyant gay man to a horrific character who seeks to infect as many as he can with the virus to a war vet, states that bringing The Space to West Tampa is important for the community.

“Where I grew up is basically what you see outside,” Montgomery says. “I love the idea of bringing the arts back to change the community. To bring the arts to this neighborhood gives people a new aspect of life. It changes you, it certainly changed me. I could have easily ended up a completely different person, but theater saved me.”

"Elegies for Angels, Punks & Raging Queens'' will be playing its last show this weekend, April 22-24. For ticket information, visit the theater's website

Historic Tampa Theatre needs your donations to continue renovation

A historic gem in downtown Tampa is on its way to reaching its fundraising goal of $10 million thanks to several generous donors in the community.
 
The Tampa Theatre, located on Franklin Street, has been part of the city’s cultural arts scene for 90 years. To ensure the theater remains intact and relevant for future generations, a fundraising drive is ongoing.

Tampa Theatre board member Anne Arthur Pittman and her family are the latest donors to step up to pledge $500,000 to the historic theater. In addition, Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin Beckner on behalf of the county's Capital Asset Preservation (CAP) Grant program announced a $325,000 contribution. And the theater received an anonymous donation of $100,000 at the beginning of the year plus a $1 million tax fund appropriation passed by the Florida Legislature and approved by Gov. Rick Scott.
 
Improvements to the aging facility will be executed by Westlake Reed Leskosky, a Cleveland-based architectural and design firm that is also working on the Master Plan for the Straz Performing Arts Center in downtown Tampa.
 
“Our immediate priorities are protecting the building from the elements, or sealing the envelope, as we’ve referred to it, and updating critically outdated infrastructure and systems,” says Jill Witecki of the Tampa Theatre.
 
Witecki goes on to explain that priorities include:
 
  • Replacement of windows installed in 1926 along the Florida Avenue and Polk Street sides of the building with windows that are aesthetically true to the Theatre’s historic landmark status, but that are thoroughly modern in terms of energy efficiency and storm-rated safety.
  •  Water mitigation in the basement, which will include a vacuum de-watering system to prevent further water intrusion through the walls and floor, and repairs to the water-damaged plaster walls.     
  • Electrical upgrades throughout the building to replace the original cloth-covered wiring and main power distribution, update the house lighting, and modernize the lighting and sound interface that touring productions use when they visit the building.
According to Witecki, work is being completed as money comes in based on what needs must be met first. For those interested in donating to the historic theater, you can do so through the Tampa Theatre website. There are also opportunities to give back by becoming a member.

Straz Center master plan for redevelopment moves forward

Theater and performing arts lovers will applaud at the news that the Straz Center in Tampa is set for major redevelopment. The conceptual phase of the master plan was recently unveiled and its contents scrutinized.

Changes to the center, which are being developed and conceptualized by Paul Westlake and Jonathan Kurtz of the architectural firm Westlake Reed Leskosky, include the creation of a grand terrace that flows to the Hillsborough River, reinventing and enlarging the Silbiger Lobby in Morsani Hall and adding a multi-purpose events center to accommodate growth in food and beverage, education and artistic programming.

So why make the changes now?

“The Straz Center is approaching its 30th anniversary,” says Judy Lisi, CEO of the Straz Center.  “It was the right time to plan for the future of the Straz Center.”

The center, which boasts an average 600,000 visitors annually, has created its master plan to align with Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn's InVision Tampa plan. The Straz Master Plan will be funded by the Frank E. Duckwall Foundation, and has been approved by the mayor, city officials and the center board.

The project is expected to cost up to $100 million. While it is too early in the planning process to have a completion date, Lisi says the center will stay open during construction.

“Once we have a better handle on funding, then we will have a better idea of scheduling,” Lisi says. “The next step is further refinement of the plan.”

Community art giveback begins in Channel District, Tampa

Art is springing from the walls in the Channel District, literally.

The Channel District Community Alliance, Inc. in cooperation with the homeowner’s association at the Grand Central at Kennedy has begun the first installment of their art giveback to the community. The project entitled, “Waves of Change,” is a four-part art series that will reflect the overall spirit of the district.

The purpose of the art is to bring beauty to the neighborhood, but, according to Vance Arnett, President of the Channel District Community Alliance, it goes beyond just esthetics.

“We are a walkable community so we want to provide people with beautiful surroundings, but we also want to give people a destination to walk to,” Arnett says. “We want to have something that you will want to show visitors, family and friends when they come and visit.”

So what will people see when they walk the streets of the Channel District? A mural created by Artists Meaghan Farrell Scalise of Traditional and Digitial Arts, LLC (TADA) and Rebekah Lazaridis.

“We really want to catapult the arts scene here in this area,” Scalise says. “The neighbors that have seen our progress have expressed such joy over it and we hope that it provides the residents here with a sense of community and pride living in the Channel District.”

 It took the artists under a week to complete the mural.

“We are planning more art projects and each one will have a theme,” Arnett says. “One will be indicative of the history of the Channel District, another of the lifestyle and one that represents our future.  We also plan to strategically place them around the community so again they are destination spots for people to walk to.”

You can see the “Waves of Change” mural at Grand Central at Kennedy located at 1120 East Kennedy Boulevard in Tampa. 

Tampa Bay area colleges add buildings designed for the future

As college students settle in for the Spring semester at campuses around the Tampa Bay area, many of the college grounds in the region are under construction to make way for the future.

USF St. Petersburg

The University of South Florida-St Petersburg (USFSP) recently broke ground on the Kate Tiedemann College of Business building. The building located on the downtown St. Petersburg campus will be designed to enhance the learning experience for business students.

“The new building will house an accelerator lab for its entrepreneurship program where students can develop startups and work with local entrepreneurs,” says Gary Patterson, interim Dean and Professor of Finance at the Kate Tiedemann College of Business. “We will also provide a consumer insight lab where marketing students can conduct focus group studies. The building offers USFSP the infrastructure needed to improve the services to our students and community partners.”

Patterson says the building, which will cost upwards of $29 million, will allow students the ability to congregate in one location.

“Currently the students, faculty and staff are spread across eight buildings at USF St. Petersburg,” he says. “Students will finally have a home, and the new building will allow them to work on group projects in the break-out rooms found throughout the building.” 

The Kate Tiedemann College of Business building is expected to open Fall 2016.

University of Tampa

To ensure not only a healthy mind, but healthy body too, the University of Tampa is building a new fitness center. Scheduled to open Spring 2016, the 40,000-square-feet, two-story building will have exercise programs, personal training and evaluation, intra-murals, club sports and a room dedicated for spinning classes.

In addition to the expenditure of the building, the University is purchasing a large number of treadmills, stationary bikes, elliptical trainers and free weights for the fitness center.

Eckerd College

Students interested in the arts rejoiced when the college recently announced plans to replace its Ransom Arts Center with a new visual arts building. The Ransom Arts Center, which has been a staple at the main campus since the 1970s, was torn down.

The new building has yet to be named, but will be approximately 34,000-square-feet, quite an upgrade from the original 18,000-square-feet. With the extra space, students can expect more video and photography space, a green screen and more space for a dark room.

Construction started last month and is expected to be completed in two years.
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